Food rules for health as per Sushruta in Ayurveda

Sushruta Samhita is one of the three main texts in Ayurveda. This is part of the chapter on food.

Food which has undergone proper and favorable processing (proper action cooking and spicing to make it digestible), endowed with beneficial and favorite taste etc.., delicious, clean, warm, and fresh is wholesome.

At the outset, one should take sweet, in the middle sour and salty, and afterwards the remaining tastes of pungent bitter and astringent in the food.

In the beginning, one should eat pomegranate etc. fruits, then liquids, thereafter various soft and hard edibles. One should take solid items first.

In the beginning, middle and end of the meal, amalaka fruit (indian gooseberry) is commended which is free from complications and alleviates doshas.

Stalks, stems, and roots of lotus, tubers, sugarcane etc. should be eaten at the beginning of the meal and never thereafter.

In a hungry person (having apetite), sweet taste is taken to overcome vayu in the stomach. Sour and salty tastes taken in the middle of the meal stimulate digestive fire in the small intestines. In the end of a meal if pungent, bitter, and astringent is taken it subdues kapha. Similarly, sour fruits taken in the beginning overcome vata, while liquid brings softness and promotes vitality.

Seated comfortably on a raised platform, evenly postured and concentrating on food the wise should eat, at a proper time (when ones digestive fire is ready and one has real hunger), in proper quantity (as per the digestive capacity), and quickly.

Symptoms of proper food intake and digestion:

No pressure in bowels, no pain in sides, no distress in heart, no heaviness in abdomen, satiety in the eyes etc.. Pacification of hunger and thirst, staying easily in respiration, laughter, talk etc.. and easy digestion of ingested food day and night.

Food taken in time satiates

Suitable food does not cause any distress

Light food is digested soon

Unctuous food promotes strength

Warm food promotes digestive power

Food taken quickly undergoes proper digestion

Food predominately liquid is digested from from any defect

Food in proper quantity is easily digested and produces equilibrium of tissues and health

When to eat what:

In seasons that have nights of longer duration one should take food consisting of plenty of its contraries in the morning.

In those which have days of longer duration one should take food prescribed in that season in the afternoon.

One should take food evenly divided between day and night in seasons when nights and days are of equal duration.

Hemanta (early winter) and Shishira (late winter) have nights of longer duration.

Grishma (early summer) and Pravrt (varsha or late summer) have days of longer duration while in Sharad (autumn) and Vastanta (spring) nights and days are equal. This injunction is for those who take only two meals a day in morning and evening. Those that eat more meals should consume delicious and light food in one half or one third of the total quantity of two meals.

One should not take food before or after the appropriate time (when the digestion is active) or in quantity less or more. Taking food before the digestion is ready, one creates disease and even dies. Taking food after hunger has come and gone, when the digestive fire is disturbed by vayu, the food is taken with difficulty and produces a loss of appetite.

Food in deficient quantity produces discontent and reduces strength while that in excessive quantity produces lassitude, heaviness, gurgling sound and malaise.

Therefore, one should take food that is well processed methodically, free from these defects and endowed with the qualities in both times after considering dosha, time day, time of season, digestive fire strength, digestive capacity, etc.

Food:

Dirty, affected by poisons or whatnot, leftovers, containing stone grass or earth; disliked, stale, unpalatable and putrified food should be discarded. Food that is cooked a long time earler, is hard, cold, reheated, incompletely strained and churned, is not palatable (loses its natural taste) and should be discarded.

During a meal, one should gargle with water as to cleanse the tongue as it gives new relish to the food because of the tongue being cleaned. The tongue that is satiated by palatable foods in the beginning of a meal does not taste so the mouth should be cleansed in between.

Palatable food provides pleasant mood, strength, nourishment, energy, exhilaration, and health whereas the unpalatable food gives the opposite. Palatable food is that which is desired again and again after taking it. Water should be taken in proper quantity after and also while taking food now and again.

 

Vata increases after food is digested, pitta during digestion, while kapha increases soon after eating.

The healthy and wise one should eliminate kapha accumulation by food with smoking or favorable astringent, pungent, and bitter substances such as clove camphor, nutmeg or pungent /astringent fruits which produce non sliminess in mouth or aromatic substances along with betelnut (tambula).

After a meal, one should sit comfortably like a king till the strain of food is over. Then one should walk a short walk and lie down on their left side in bed.

After a meal one should attend to favorite sounds, sights, tastes, smells, and touches. By doing this the meal is positioned well. Despicable sounds, sights, tastes, smells, and touches as well as dirty food or excessive laughter produce vomitting.

One should not indulge in sleep or sitting after a meal. Nor should one take liquids, expose oneself to the sun or fire nor should one swim, travel or ride.

One should never indulge in taking only one taste nor should one eat food consisting of mainly vegetables and inferior grains or sours (fermented foods).

Tastes singularly or collectively, should never be taken in excess.

After the first meal of the day, if the digestive fire does not come up clearly, the second meal should be skipped as eating a meal when the last meal has not been digested thoroughly extinguishes the digestive fire.

One should abstain from food that is heavy in terms of quantity and substance. Such as mung beans, although light becomes heavy in excess quantity. Urad dahl, buffalo, boar, etc… is too heavy in substance.

If eating something drying like rice flour, one should drink double the quantity of water after eating a small quantity of the item. Heavy food are desirable up to 1/3 of the fullness and light food up to satiation. Liquids and predominantly liquids should not be taken in large quantity. Dry food supplemented with plenty of liquid is digested well. Dry food used frequently is not digested properly without moistening it.

If pitta is situated in the stomach or the seat of agni (grahani) and the food that is taken is daha (burning, pitta provoking, pungent, sour, or salty, fermented), it will only halfway digest and create hyperacidity or burning sensations.

Food that is dry, incompatible, and wind forming causes disorders of digestive fire. Dry preparations such as rice flour etc, incompatible such as fish mixed with milk etc, wind forming such as bengal gram, lentils, etc.

Indigestion is of 4 types:

Totally undigested (it is the crud on your tongue). The food attains sweetness due to vitiation of kapha and creates symptoms of heaviness, ununctuousness, itching, etc.

Half digested, the food becomes sour due to viciation of pitta and symptoms like sour-bitter eructations, etc. are present.

Digested but with disturbances such as formation of wind, colic, constipation etc. The food creates severe pain, colic, hardness of bowels, and opposite movement of vata. Symptoms appear like yawning, body ache, head ache, etc.

Indigestion at the level of rasa dhatu. There is loss of appetite even on clear eructations and heaviness in the cardiac region with excess salivation being present.

Food will not digest, even if it is suitable, light and taken at the right times due to excessive intake of water, irregular eating times, suppression of natural urges, disturbance and contrariness of sleep.

Food taken by a person who is subdued with envy, fear, anger, greed, grief, depression, or aversion does not get digested well.

Indigestion gives rise to fainting, delirium, vomiting, excessive salivation, malaise, and giddiness as complications. It can even lead to death.

In totally undigesting, one should lighten meals in quality and quantity and they should be treated with lightening measures until restored to normalcy in terms of disorder and strength

in half digested, emesis with salt water is beneficial. One should abstain from food afterwards til normalcy is restored

in digesting but with disturbances, oiling and sweating is beneficial.

in indigestion at the level of rasa dhatu, one should sleep

Intake of food consisting of wholesome and unwholesome things mixed together (incompatible combining – samashana), in excess, in small quantities or untimely (irregular eating – vishamashana), and food taken during indigestion (eating one meal over the other – adhyashana). these three lead to immediate death or cause many disorders and diseases.

Half burnt food is digested soon by cold water which the coldness counteracts pitta and moistening carries it downward. Food that gets half burnt immediately causes burning sensation in the cardiac region, abdomen and throat. One may get relief by taking black raisins with haritaki or haritaki mixed with honey.

If a strong and uncted person feels suspicion about indigestion in the morning at the time of the first meal, he should take wholesome foods, without any suspicion, after taking haritaki with dry ginger, and caring for his well being.

When the indigested toxic food substance is in a small quantity, obstructed by dosha, and undermined does not cover up the passage of the digestive fire, hunger appears even during indigestion. This kills the unwise like poison.

Sushruta Sahmita: Sutrasthana Chapter 46

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10 thoughts on “Food rules for health as per Sushruta in Ayurveda

  1. Came here originally looking for ksaras (kitchari) and ended up reading a lot of your articles. Thank you for being frank and authentic. It has helped me to cut through mental sloth. This article about diet is very valuable. I am reading the others and enjoying them thoroughly. I am learning and if I dont understand something, I will come back to it another day. Thanks and thank you again very much. Regards

    • In Hemanta (early winter) and Shishira (late winter) the nights have longer duration and the days are shorter. Breakfast is the meal that one would eat in the morning.

      Interesting thing is that we think of three meals when there is not that concept at all in ayurveda. In fact, no where does it say to eat three meals a day. All is seen from the vision of for who as an individual. Different people would eat different times of day dependant upon their individual situation.

  2. Could you please explain this

    “At the outset, one should take sweet, in the middle sour and salty, and afterwards the remaining tastes of pungent bitter and astringent in the food.

    In the beginning, one should eat pomegranate etc. fruits, then liquids, thereafter various soft and hard edibles. One should take solid items first.

    In the beginning, middle and end of the meal, amalaka fruit (indian gooseberry) is commended which is free from complications and alleviates doshas.

    Stalks, stems, and roots of lotus, tubers, sugarcane etc. should be eaten at the beginning of the meal and never thereafter.”

    first line says sweet first

    second line says pomegranate, fruits first, also says take solid items first.

    third line says amalaka fruit first

    fourth like says stalks stems tubers first

    am confused, can you please simplify ?

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